Ducati Monster S4R

STAGE 1 - THE DEAL
The deal is done and first impressions
.

STAGE 2 - COLOUR SCHEMES
Photoshop & long train journeys - what could go wrong?


STAGE 3 - OH NO, IT'S BROKEN
Dismantling the bike and masterplan for world domination.

STAGE 4 - TARGET MALLORY
Rebuilding for Mallory Park.
Will it be ready?

STAGE 5 - FIRST RUN
How does it go?
Making it road legal.

STAGE 6 - DETAILS, DETAILS
Detailing, unforseen glitches and close-up pics.

STAGE 7 - NEARLY THERE
The (nearly) final result in glorious technicolour.

STAGE 8 - LEAVE IT ALONE
Fettling, the return..


Stage 1:
The deal & first impressions
September 2004

After polishing and reverting my 2.5 year old S4 back to standard, I advertised it on a couple of forums for £4400 but was willing to let it go for close to £4000. I thought I would get a few sniffs but got no interest whatsoever so began to look at trading in - really expecting to get no more than £3500. I began scanning MCN's classifieds and saw deals for new S4R's for £6995 at Riverside Motorcycles. I was also hoping mine would sell privately as a mint, year old S4R was for sale privately for £5800!! Still no interest in a private sale so one miserable Saturday in August, I decided to pay Riverside a visit.

I took myself and a good friend Terry (who had previous experience in car sales), did the dull journey round the M25 and up to Riverside. I had made up my mind that the S4 was going to traded in whatever they offered so expecting the worst, I was thoroughly expecting to be stitched up like a kipper. The bike arrived in standard form except for the carbon clutch cover and the Sil-Motor hi-level exhausts.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Initially felt the same height as the S4 although I had raised the ride height on the S4. So that means that I still can't touch the floor with flat feet.

Do not like the red colour at all so that will be changed in the near future - just a bit too plain for me. I really fancy a different coloured frame so that may also happen - actually 3 weeks after I paid for this, Ducati announced their 2005 range with yes, you guessed it, S4R's with red frames - sod's law but at least no Testastretta engine in the range.

The swingarm looks cool although that finish is not smooth or polished like previous double sided Monster swingarms. The roughened finish has already proved to be a right arse to keep clean - that will be polished or anodised to keep the cleaning routine easier (as well as looking prettier). Also no hugger as standard - so that'll be an extra £200 for a bit of carbon that doesn't fit, please sir.

STARTING UP:
Was given an in depth explanation about the immobiliser system and the importance of the red key system - whatever you do, do not lose the red key as the clocks, immobiliser and lots of other bits will need to be changed - to the tune of £1500-£2000! So that will be filed away somewhere safe which I will no doubt forget where.

Now able to warm up the bike on the stand (which is nice) and a handy little indicator on the tach which indicates when the engine is upto riding temperature.
The displays are all digital with the addition of a clock. The speedo looks much sportier although I would say that the numbers are harder to read at speed. It would have been good to have a few more gadgets like top speed, average speed etc - a £25 bicycle computer is able to fit these functions into a small package so why not an £8000 motorbike.

The lights stay on all the time with the option of high or low beam. I am used to riding with the lights on at all times but I guess this is an EEC legal requirement now. I'll just have to make sure the battery is always charged so I don't get those hard-to-start mornings where the bike doesn't want to know.

Everything else is pretty much where it should be so onto how it rides.

RIDING:
Two words: very stealth. It is very quiet and accelerates with the minimum of fuss - without the noise of the race exhausts, it is quite hard to get an impression of how fast you are going until you look at the speedo.

The clutch is slightly heavier than the S4 which makes itself quite noticeable at the end of an accident-laden, slow moving, roadworks commute into London.

At lower revs (below 3500), it is very chunky and not really happy. I was not expecting it to be much different to the S4 at lower revs but it was instantly noticeable - I guess in stop start traffic, it may prove to be a bit of a pain. Again, my impressions of the S4 are somewhat biased as I upped the teeth on the rear sprocket to make it more useable around town - perhaps in stock trim, they would be very similar. All of my previous bikes have had the gearing altered in some way so I guess this won't be any different.

When pushing on, I started hanging off a bit with the balls of my feet on the pegs. It was then that I noticed my right heel kept hitting something - turned out to be the guards on the exhaust pipes. I have since tried various positions but still can't get my feet comfortable - this is most probably not helped by the fact that I am a little pigeon footed! Hopefully the new exhaust system and cyclecat rearsets will be able to adjust this away.

The suspension feels plush soaking up London potholes reasonably well. It seems to be set-up on the soft side thougn with quite a bit of front fork dive with not a lot of front brakes - again, my previous S4 had been set-up a bit harder for the track work so the standard S4 set-up may not be a lot different.

The brakes seem to work well in both the wet and dry although after 500 miles, the annoying squeak that seems to plague 50% of my bikes has decided to infect my latest. I have read many articles on bedding in brakes but nothing seems to help although I am sure it will disappear in time - just quite embarrassing rolling up as cool as you like, on a brand new shiny Italian Ducati checking out the ladies (through darkened visor, of course), only for the brakes to start squealing and juddering - denied!! The weird thing is that in the mornings on the commute to work, they do not squeak yet in the evenings on the journey home, they squeak like no tomorrow - very strange.

The mirrors are much better looking than the old round style Mickey Mouse jobbies yet the left one vibrates at speed so I guess I should get the silicon out before the glass makes a bid for freedom. I don't know if I want to go back to my fancy carbon jobbies now as these mirrors actually work although I have found that they stick out a lot further than regular jobbies. In fact, they are the perfect height for clipping BMW X5 mirrors (don't ask) so I do have to be more careful when filtering and the "Ali shuffle" comes into play a bit more then usual.

SUMMING UP:
What's good - swingarm, clock, engine at higher speeds, suspension and mirrors,brakes.

What's bad - swingarm finish, rearset positioning, heavy clutch, high seat height, limited steering lock, engine at lower speeds.

Am I glad I made the switch - yes, because the most asked question I have seen on Monster forums through the years, is how to put a single sided swingarm on the Monster. With the trade-in price I managed for my S4 and the addition of the warranty, it was a no-brainer. I know that many do not like the plumbing on a Monster but I think that the performance more than makes up for it - it's just a shame that it's taken Ducati so long to make the bike they should have updated years ago - and for those who don't like the plumbing, there's always the S2R.